I did the Bullet Catch long before the Penn & Teller and David Blaine versions. As is the case with tricks in one’s repertoire, their performance lives can be short and glorious or long and twisted. I did the Bullet Catch for six weeks, four times a week, for a total of twenty-four performances. Twenty-three times the routine went exactly as planned. In 1990 the Bullet Catch was the closing bit to my show, Magic Trap, a self-produced non-extravaganza in a tiny 99-seat Hollywood dump of a theater, and it was done as a parody. In the traditional rendition of the trick, a bullet is fired directly at the magician, and he catches the bullet—in a handkerchief, in a bottle, on a plate, or even at the tip of a sword. I preferred the more contemporary method, catching the bullet with my teeth.
On stage was a large TV that was an interactive element throughout the show and provided the finish for my Bullet Catch routine. Normally, I introduced a former army MP as my marksman for the stunt. He had a bullet marked by an audience member so it could be identified later. We stood facing each other and the marksman fired at my face. The explosive bang of the shot popped everyone’s ears in the tiny theater. Blood squirted out of my mouth as I collapsed, apparently dead. There was a horrifying offstage scream, the curtains quickly closed, the TV lit up, and the audience saw me deliver this prerecorded onscreen message:
“Earlier today I went ahead and made this video so I would be able to thank all of you for attending my show. I never even tried that bullet catch trick before tonight. I just think it’s better to fail at something you love, than to succeed at something you hate. That’s it. Take it easy, everybody. Thank you. Good night.”
So you see, this was a trick planned to go wrong, but one time it went wrong in an unplanned way. When the marksman pulled the trigger on this particular occasion, nothing happened. Being the absent-minded bonehead that I am, I had neglected ahead of time to double-check that the firearm had been loaded with the usual blanks. Frantically, he pulled the trigger a few more times, but still nothing happened.
Sensing what was wrong, I did what I usually do when I slip on one of my own banana peelings: I thought of something stupid, in this case, making my cheeks really big and hollering BANG! Instead of doing that, though, I bit the blood capsule that was hidden in my mouth, grabbed my neck, fell to the floor, and screamed something stupid, “There’s been a mistake, I’m dying it was an invisible magic bullet.” Someone in the audience shouted, “Invisible magic bullet, my ass; he scared you to death!”
If you please, you can now view the last remaining visual record of this creepy escapade, as recorded 32 years, 4 months, and 37 days ago: